Seeking Shelter: Concern grows for some on proposed South Anchorage sanctioned campsite

South Anchorage building would house between 20 to 40 homeless individuals
South Anchorage building would house between 20 to 40 homeless individuals
Published: Jun. 1, 2023 at 6:56 PM AKDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The special task force designated by the Anchorage Assembly to target five locations around Anchorage for sanctioned homeless camps has determined a potential spot for South Anchorage.

The proposal is meant to disperse the number of homeless people evenly throughout the city.

In South Anchorage, known as District 6, there is a building that the city is calling Section 11. It’s a structure designed to house the most vulnerable homeless people.

But not everyone is in favor of it.

“I’m a very aware person and I hadn’t heard a word about it until today,” said Vince Spezialy, who owns a nearby business.

Spezialy is concerned about the proposed camp that would occupy the building at 1805 Academy Drive, which is just off Abbott Road in South Anchorage. Spezialy owns the Anchorage Music and Dance Center, which has been at the same location for more than a decade.

“I have a school — music and dance school — with 3- to 15-year-olds,” Spezialy said.

The idea would be to use 10 of the building’s rooms for year-round habitation. It could house between 20 to 40 residents at any given time. Two portable units from the Anchorage School District would also be placed on-site to be used by service providers.

The proposed setup makes Spezialy rather skeptical.

“I’d be concerned if there’s this low-barrier facility across the street, for what kind of a neighborhood feel we’re going to have,” Spezialy said. “People walking around, walking into the business.”

The city previously had other plans for the land around it, but for now, they’ve abandoned them.

“So the municipality acquired that because of the Scooter (Avenue) extension that’s going through there — now the DOT doesn’t have it on their list for work until next year,” task force member Caroline Storm said.

Storm says the building will be used to house some of those who were allowed to stay behind at the Sullivan Arena because they were considered the most vulnerable.

“It’s sitting partially empty and it’s muni-owned,” Storm said. “So the idea there was that the residents of our city requiring the most services ... they could be located there.”

There’s a church next door to the Academy Drive location, a trailer park nearby, and a town house community. That is in addition to a couple of businesses that include Spezialy’s. He hopes Assembly members will meet with the community before moving forward with their plan to house the homeless there.

“Let’s do our best for them,” Spezialy said. “Let’s not just throw them wherever the door’s open and put it behind us for another week ... Nobody’s been able to give any feedback on it, so as a businessperson, I’m very frustrated.”

However, not everyone is opposed to this site.

One community resident said in an email that while she was not surprised by opposition to the site, she personally supported it because it would cater to the community’s most vulnerable homeless residents.

The Assembly is having a work session on Friday at 10:50 a.m. and they want the public’s feedback on their proposed sanctioned camps. Members of the public can listen in during the session and then talk with Assembly members after it’s over, at approximately 1 p.m.

The sanctioned camp resolution will be on the agenda for the regular Assembly meeting on June 6, giving the public time to weigh in on this issue.